25 May 2012

At CX the biggest complaint: BAD LIVE SOUND!


GREAT live sound – for Jon English. Read the mag, link below.


We invite Secret Listener reports at CX Mag, and wow – we get a lot of them!

Very rarely do we directly run negative audio reports in the pages of CX. A recent report surrounded the live sound of Rod Stewart. Read here. This accurate report stated the fact that the audio firm associated with the tour, chose to deploy insufficient apparatus for a given show. Then, when the sound engineer pressed the accelerator, the system reached limits – and stayed there.


We had some flack of course – the engineer was the owner of the (UK based) audio supplier; the event was an outdoor show; and the old chestnut: ‘What Would Your Reporter Know, Anyway?’

Reading the above magazine (supplied here as free e-link) you should check out the La Traviata story, and the Jon English story, for some balance. These production reviews both nominate the live audio production for acclaim.

So: what are the key factors that identify less than satisfactory audio?


When CX critiques the look or lighting of a production, we get a lot less mail – because clearly, lights are very obvious. The forthcoming June edition will detail some, err, curious production techniques deployed by one mega tour which is about to depart our shores. Readers and media reviews tend to validate lighting issues quickly.

So let’s list the factors that we can associate with BAD LIVE SOUND:

  • Feedback. Unforgivable (but if it came from Monitors, absolve the FOH person) *
  • Too loud. Subjective, but when the room ‘collapses’ or reaches ‘trip point’, it is all lost ^
  • Distorts (see Rod S). This can be confusing to identify! #
  • Missed cues. The engineer simply misses the vocal, or the solo ##
  • Poor fidelity. To much/little bass, poor mids, mud at your seat **

Now some factors:

  1. Feedback* is much more common from stage monitors, but can be identified by an expert. System engineers (and the best work for the big 2: JPJ or Norwest) strive to eliminate this.
  2. Too Loud^ is when system engineers, and audiences, are ripped off by the idiot behind the console. CX will always attempt to out these nonprofessionals.
  3. Distorts # is as above. BUT often arrives due to Not Enough System, which is a failure of the sound firm. Simply put, do not do the gig without ENOUGH system.
  4. Missed cues ##. No defense.
  5. Poor fidelity**. Sadly this one is the the most common gripe – as in, ‘too much sub’, ‘vocals not distinct’ and suchlike.

At CX we take live audio very seriously, and could generally say that good production firms, and their engineers, spend their every living breath trying to deliver best quality to every seat in the venue. They are most often thwarted by the engineer.

When they ignore the rider, or the reality, and provision wrong or inadequate equipment, that really provokes our interest.

Remember: you can’t SEE sound.

Keep the dialogue running!




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